Excetera: Dennis Dart SLFs
VXG: An MPD for startersCroydon Coaches developed a bus business in contract, schools and railway replacement work, trading as Coaches Excetera. They bought an MPD from Sunray Travel in March 2012. This 8.8m Pointer 2 had started with Metrobus at Godstone in March 2000, working at Godstone then Crawley before acquisition by Sunray. So it had never been very far!
It was repainted in Coaches Excetera white with pale blue trim: very smart. It was also reregistered as S30ETC, setting a trend for the company's second-hand buses. It retained a link with its previous registration mark, bearing VGX where one would expect a fleet number. As the company developed its bus work, it acquired CN garage codes, in LT style. Later it was renumbered S30.
S30 at work near Banstead, probably on 318, March 2014 (photo by C.T.Smith)
LDP101: An ex-London General 10.1m SLFThe next SLF was a dual doorway early 10.1m Pointer2. LDP101 came from London General, and is unusual in the Excetera fleet in retaining its original registration. Croydon Coaches acquired it in May 2012, and gave it the white/blue livery.
S29, S31 ex-London Central 9.3m SLFsAtbus of Northolt acquired the next pair of SLFs, in June 2012, this time shorter single-doorway Pointer2s from London Central, erstwhile LDP 175 and 190. They were taken into the Coaches Excetera fleet and reregistered as S29 and S31 ETC, with the white/pale blue livery.
S31 in service in Ashtead, March 2014, probably on 479 to Guildford (photo by C.T.Smith).
J18, ex-Mitcham Belle/Centra/Metroline 10.1m SLFAt the same time - June 2012 - Atbus acquired a longer dual doorway bus, that had started with Mitcham Belle and then passed through the Centra and Metroline fleets as DP17. This became Coaches Excetera J18 ETC. This was route-branded for the 516, and like the others, given scrolling LED displays.
Surrey routes takeoverIn September 2012 the pace of business transformed for the five smart SLFs. In place of a diet of railway replacements and contract work, they were thrust into the daily grind of Surrey contracted routes. From 1st September Excetera took on the 516 (Dorking - Leatherhead - Box Hill - Tadworth - Epsom) from Countryliner (Mon-Sat). On Sunday 2nd September they took on the Sunday operations on routes 32 (Guildford - Dorking - Redhill) and 479 (Bookham Station - Leatherhead - Epsom). With the start of the school term on 4th September they began the operation of schooldays only route 29, which was essentially a school run (Newdigate - Leigh - Strood Green - Brockham - Dorking). This all required three buses each day, so the five buses could cope with this with a little to spare for their other work.
After Countryliner collapsed at the end of October 2012, Coaches Excetera stepped in smartly to take over the 24 and 25 routes (Guildford - Cranleigh) for Surrey. This required at least two extra buses. Three more Dart SLFs were acquired at short notice from Ensignbus, and another two were hired to use while the others were repainted and improved to company standard. After a short period of operation the route 24/25 timetable was amended to use three buses, and a route 125 was introduced as a schooldays crowd-shifter (Guildford - Chilworth - Shere - Merrow Schools).
144, S16: ex Metroline DLDsTwo of the quickly-acquired buses were ex-Metroline DLD144 and 140, both dual doorway 10.1m Pointer 2s. Both went into service in Metroline red/blue, but with digital displays. Both quickly received white and pale blue, with route branding for routes 24 and 25. 144 retained its original registration, but 140 was reregistered as S16ETC.
S17: ex Yourbus SLFThe third acquisition was a slightly longer single-doorway bus, which was allocated to the 516, and route-branded for it. (This released the MPD S30ETC for the Guildford 25). S17ETC came from Yourbus in Nottingham, who had it from the Birmingham Coach Company. It originated with Pete's Travel in West Bromwich.
S14: ex Metrobus SLFIn December 2012 Buses Excetera started a commercial hourly service 489 (Bookham Stn - Woodbridge Tesco). Presumably to supply this, they bought another single doorway Alexander bodied 10.2m SLF that had originated with Metrobus.
The route was so successful that in 2013 it was extended to Guildford, and was serviced by a mix of single and double-deckers.
J20, J14: ex Countryliner MCV EvolutionsTwo of Countryliner's SLFs with MCV Evolution bodies came to Croydon Coaches in March 2013. These may have been in anticipation of the company's assumption in June of ex-Countryliner routes 10 (Guildford - Merrow) and 73 (Woking - Chobham), both taken over from Abellio Surrey.
More ex-Countryliner Darts, from Sunray: (S20, S80, S21)Sunray Travel had been hiring Dart SLFs - and a number of MAN/MCV Evolutions - from Countryliner ever since the latter company had been ordered to cease operating. In July 2013 these were repossessed by their owning finance company. Three MPDs and two of the MANs were acquired by Croydon Coaches via Ensignbus. The erstwhile DP1 - DP3 were given the company livery and reregistered (to S20, S80 and S21 ETC) in the autumn of 2013.
S20 (ex-Countryliner DP1) in service in Epsom, March 2014 (photos by C.T.Smith)
More ex-Metrobus DartsTwo more 10.2m Dart SLFs were acquired in October 2013. Like the earlier Metrobus example, these were two of the three elderly Alexander-bodied Darts originally bought by Metrobus for Lewes operations, that had subsequently spent most of their careers at Crawley. They did not last long with Buses ETC, one being withdrawn for spares in April 2014, and the other sold on to Black Velvet at Eastleigh. Another ex-Metrobus Dart was bought in April 2014, but also passed to Black Velvet in July.
Move to Merstham: BETC LtdThe Surrey bus business had outgrown the company base at Beddington Farm (CN). After a period using a base east of Dorking (DS) the company took on the old London Country garage at Merstham (MM). The company also began to reregister its Surrey bus routes to BETC Ltd (Buses Excetera), and transferred the buses to that operating licence, leaving the coaching business at Croydon and Northolt.
There was a hiatus in operations from Merstham in March 2014, when the company was locked out of the depot temporarily.
A miscellany of middle-sized DartsNovember 2014 saw Buses Excetera acquire 10.1m Pointers DLF83 and DP1045 from Metroline (Thorpe's, Armchair), which went into service on the routes along the south side of the North Downs.
In February 2015 there came a pair of 10.5m Caetano-bodied Darts from Ealing Community Transport, where they had been 104 and 111. One received a different livery: same colours, but a different pattern, with the blue on the cantrail, roof, rear and a small side-swoosh at the rear, with the front and sides white. The other retained plain red. Neither wore fleetnames.
A similar Caetano-bodied Dart came from Docklands Minibuses in April 2015. This one stayed in white, and was used initially on the 479 (Guildford - Epsom), It then gained fleetnames and blue cant-rail route-branding for the new 489 (Merstham - Leatherhead).
A trio of Plaxtons from MerseysideIn March 2017 Buses Excetera bought three 10.8m Plaxton-bodied SLFs from Stagecoach Merseyside, one of them possibly for spares. The other two went into service in white, with fleetnames. One was then branded for the new 489.